NCAA Tournament preview: (1) Kansas vs. (16) Western Kentucky
03/21/2013 9:08 PM
05/16/2014 9:36 PM
About 8:50 p.m. Friday at the Sprint Center
KCSP (610 AM)
•ABOUT KANSAS (29-5):
The Jayhawks begin their 24th straight NCAA Tournament appearance as the favorite to advance to their 15th Final Four. After winning three games in the Big 12 tournament by an average of 19.6 points, KU returns to the Sprint Center, where the Jayhawks are 6-0 this season. KU enters the tournament with a 13-3 record against teams that made the NCAA field, and they did it by leading the country in field-goal percentage defense (36.0 percent). If the Jayhawks win, they’ll match Memphis (2006-09) as the only school to win 30 games in four straight seasons. (Memphis later vacated its wins in 2008.) Kansas is 3-1 all-time against Western Kentucky, with its only loss coming in the 1971 Final Four consolation game in Houston.
•ABOUT WESTERN KENTUCKY (20-15):
Kansas coach Bill Self says Western Kentucky isn’t your traditional No. 16 seed, and he has history on his side. The Hilltoppers are appearing in their fourth NCAA Tournament in six seasons and their 23rd overall. On Feb. 20, Western Kentucky was 13-14 and appeared in danger of missing out on another trip to the dance. But coach Ray Harper rallied his squad, and Western Kentucky has won seven of its last eight, including four straight in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. On the floor, Western Kentucky is consistent — if not underwhelming. The Hilltoppers rank 183rd nationally in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, and 185th on defense. Western Kentucky will shoot plenty from deep, and leading scorer T.J. Price shoots 36 percent from three-point range.
•BOTTOM LINE: If the Jayhawks can guard the three-point line, they should be able to stifle Western Kentucky’s offense and cruise to a victory in front of a partisan crowd.